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We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda [Hardcover]

Philip Gourevitch
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1998 0374286973 978-0374286972 1st
An unforgettable firsthand account of a people's response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity.

This remarkable debut book chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the killing was low-tech--largely by machete--it was carried out at shocking speed: some 800,000 people were exterminated in a hundred days. A Tutsi pastor, in a letter to his church president, a Hutu, used the chilling phrase that gives Philip Gourevitch his title.

With keen dramatic intensity, Gourevitch frames the genesis and horror of Rwanda's "genocidal logic" in the anguish of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the impossibly crowded prisons and refugee camps. Through intimate portraits of Rwandans in all walks of life, he focuses on the psychological and political challenges of survival and on how the new leaders of postcolonial Africa went to war in the Congo when resurgent genocidal forces threatened to overrun central Africa.

Can a country composed largely of perpetrators and victims create a cohesive national society? This moving contribution to the literature of witness tells us much about the struggle everywhere to forge sane, habitable political orders, and about the stubbornness of the human spirit in a world of extremity.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Hutus kill Tutsis, then Tutsis kill Hutus--if that's really all there is to it, then no wonder we can't be bothered with it," Philip Gourevitch writes, imagining the response of somebody in a country far from the ethnic strife and mass killings of Rwanda. But the situation is not so simple, and in this complex and wrenching book, he explains why the Rwandan genocide should not be written off as just another tribal dispute.

The "stories" in this book's subtitle are both the author's, as he repeatedly visits this tiny country in an attempt to make sense of what has happened, and those of the people he interviews. These include a Tutsi doctor who has seen much of her family killed over decades of Tutsi oppression, a Schindleresque hotel manager who hid hundreds of refugees from certain death, and a Rwandan bishop who has been accused of supporting the slaughter of Tutsi schoolchildren, and can only answer these charges by saying, "What could I do?" Gourevitch, a staff writer for the New Yorker, describes Rwanda's history with remarkable clarity and documents the experience of tragedy with a sober grace. The reader will ask along with the author: Why does this happen? And why don't we bother to stop it? --Maria Dolan

From Publishers Weekly

What courage must it have required to research and write this book? And who will read such a ghastly chronicle? Gourevitch, who reported from Rwanda for the New Yorker, faces these questions up front: "The best reason I have come up with for looking more closely into Rwanda's stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it." The stories are unrelentingly horrifying and filled with "the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness" of one group of Rwandans (Hutus) methodically exterminating another (Tutsis). With 800,000 people killed in 100 days, Gourevitch found many numbed Rwandans who had lost whole families to the machete. He discovered a few admirable characters, including hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who, "armed with nothing but a liquor cabinet, a phone line, an internationally famous address, and his spirit of resistance," managed to save refugees in his Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali. General Paul Kagame, one of Gourevitch's main sources in the new government, offers another bleak and consistent voice of truth. But failure is everywhere. Gourevitch excoriates the French for supporting the Hutus for essentially racist reasons; the international relief agencies, which he characterizes as largely devoid of moral courage; and the surrounding countries that preyed on the millions of refugees?many fleeing the consequences of their part in the killings. As the Rwandans try to rebuild their lives while awaiting the slow-moving justice system, the careful yet passionate advocacy of reporters like Gourevitch serves to remind both Rwandans and others that genocide occurred in this decade while the world looked on.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374286973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374286972
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
367 of 376 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A required text for the 21st century January 10, 2000
In early May 1994 I stood on a bridge over the river that forms the border between Rwanda and Tanzania and observed corpses floating down towards Lake Victoria in an unbroken stream. As I write this, two Rwandan women are taking the unprecedented action of suing the United Nations for its failure to intervene in the worst act of genocide since WW2. UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who played a kay role in UN decision-making in 1994, has confessed the UN's "failure" and expressed his own "deep remorse." 800,000 people died, most of them hacked to death with machetes by their neighbours. How this happened, and how the world utterly failed in its self-appointed role to prevent exactly such a holocaust, is the subject of this beautifully written, accessible and compelling book. Gourevitch wants to know WHAT happened, and through interviews with survivors, gives us the clearest and most comprehensive understanding I have yet seen. It is not pretty reading, although Gourevitch's dispassionate and sensitive writing makes it possible to get through material that in coarser hands would be impossible to stomach. He also describes the HOW. For years it was evident to the West - and most particularly to France and Belgium - that Hutu factions were gathering their strength to strike at the Tutsi minority. Every day Hutu radio stations ran violent anti-Tutsi propaganda, in which Tutsis and any moderate Hutus who were not interested in killing them were warned to prepare to die. When the killing began, it was simply the next logical step in a process that had long been underway. Read more ›
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221 of 229 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raw and compelling, the abyss gazes back at you ... November 17, 2000
In a transcendent tour de force, Philip Gourevitch takes one of the most horrifying events of the late 20th century, and manages to find the elements of hope and meaning that make this book more than the sum of the body parts it describes as scattered around a church in Nyarubuye, Rwanda.
On the surface, "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families" is a graphic account of the 1994 genocide in which the "Hutu Power" government led its citizens to slaughter 800,000 of their Tutsi neighbors in only 100 days ... while the international community stood by and watched helplessly. In a greater sense, however, this is a story about how people imagine the world to be, and the terrible consequences that follow when they lose their humanity in trying to create such a world. It is about the nature of evil, and the power of forgiveness and justice to reclaim the future without forgetting the past.
This is a difficult and painful book to read, but not for the obvious reasons. The atrocities committed by the killers are brought to light in considerable detail, however Gourevitch does this in an almost semi-detached and dispassionate way. His real moral outrage seems to be reserved for the so-called "civilized" countries that could have stopped the genocide, but instead did nothing until it was too late ... and then compounded their foreign policy sins by aiding the Hutu murderers in refugee camps.
There is certainly plenty of blame to go around. Gourevitch provides extensive evidence that there were many warning signs of the impending massacres. He outlines the brief history of ethnic antagonisms that led to the crimes, and explains why the Clinton Administration, the United Nations (including current U.N.
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68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Defense Of This Excellent Book October 3, 2002
Several reviewers have lambasted this book for a variety of shortcomings: poorly written, poorly edited, he doesn't interview the right types of people, he talks too much about himself. I hope to briefly explain why I don't agree with ANY of these criticisms and hope that people will read this excellent book.
Poorly written/edited: I'm a writer/editor myself and the pages of this book flew through my fingers. I was totally absorbed. I found it well written, but if you're worried, I have a feeling the subject matter is so important, you wouldn't even notice if stylistically it wasn't your cup of tea.
Sources: He interviews the following types of people: Hutus who killed, Tutsis who were attacked, government officials of many countries, foreign aid workers. Don't believe the people who say he only interviews the power players and leaves out the voice of the common man. The hotel manager's (just a middle class Hutu who did what he thought was right) story is awesome and could make a movie as powerful as Schindler's List.
Too self-centered: Yes, Gourevitch brings in his own observations and experiences. I felt they were insightful and interesting. Part of his quest is to see how people deal with the genocide, how they internalize it and incorporate it into their existence. As an American going to Rwanda from New York to learn about this genocide, Gourevitch has an interesting perspective and I'm glad he didn't choose to bury it.
One more thing: Several reviews crticized a particular passage where he talks about the "postmodern war" of relativism versus right/wrong. These reviewers misunderstood the passage. He's not talking about the genocide itself, but he's talking about THE WAR OVER THE GENOCIDE.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Thucydides -- a great book about a great tragedy
Philip Gourevitch has written a book that deserves to be compared favorably with the history of the Peloponnesian war by Thucydides.
Published 9 days ago by Lancelot R. Fletcher
4.0 out of 5 stars tough story
An impossible event to understand this book goes far to see it from many perspectives and it is written with insight and thoughtfulness
Published 1 month ago by Michael J. Cohen
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but Disturbing
Excellent, but disturbing, book. Good history of status of different classes in African tribes. So sad things like this continue around the world
Published 1 month ago by Brenda Flowers
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
A well-written book about a nightmare situation and the internal and external forces that moved it along. Read more
Published 1 month ago by bronte666
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost Beyond Comprehension
For those of us who have not experienced genocide and its consequences first-hand, books such as this are an entrée to a reality from which fate, circumstance, or Providence... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mike DePue, OFS
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome book
This book contains much information about Rwanda's genocide not found in other books. An awesome read. Not pretty, but you will learn a lot. Read more
Published 2 months ago by eiliketoknit
4.0 out of 5 stars book
Amazing book ! Each one have to read and remember. It was shocking reading the book. Every page was new
Published 2 months ago by Oren Fleisher
5.0 out of 5 stars Rwanda Genocide
I read this book because it was recommended in Shake Hands with the Devil. It is a very comprehensive account of a horrible story. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Betty J Wydryk
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 years ago
But it feels like yesterday when you read this, the best written, most gripping and informative book I've read about the genocide. I'm not gonna lie, it is not easy to read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. Anderson-Pomeroy
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile read
I was greatly affected by reading this book, even after completing it leaves you disturbed. The sheer level of depravity, the hypocrisy, the absurdity, it is almost too much to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by KS
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